0.5 out of 5 stars
Cut to the Chase:
There were portions of this book that either were interesting or, more often, could have been interesting, but overall, it felt both rushed and contrived. It was one of those stories where you’re led to believe that perhaps they’ve always liked one another (or rather, he’s always loved her) but they’re just now, kind of magically, because of circumstances, discovering that they’re meant to be. There are so many overused and underdeveloped tropes in this that it’s hard to know where to begin: the 0.5 stars are for the fencing interactions, which were fairly well done… but I can’t judge a whole romance based on one sequence.
Eleanor Abbington is a woman with an interesting backstory — she has an overly controlling uncle, a delightful younger sister (whom we’re told about, but never get to see), a widowed aunt to whom she’d love to serve as a companion, and an aversion to marriage. Not a disinterest in marriage, but an actual dislike of the institution, having seen nothing but abusive and/or controlling examples of marriages amongst all of her relatives.
Now, that could have been interesting — or rather, she, Eleanor, might have been interesting if this had been delved into more.
Similarly, Nicolas, the younger step-cousin of Eleanor who’s just returned from the war, who has always loved and pined for her: he, too, had potential that was never really developed. He’s the younger man (rare in this genre of books), he’s only ever gotten Eleanor’s attention by needling her (a too-often used trope, but had potential here).
But, despite the fact that this was a novella, everything felt rushed, underdeveloped, and just too, too easy.
Part of it is just how blithely all the potential problems are first explained: usually just told to us (Eleanor’s mother and her terrible marriage) rarely shown (Nicolas’s mother drinking herself into oblivion), and far too easily resolved (so that you wonder why it was such a conflict in the first place).
Again, I know it’s a novella, but I would have almost preferred fewer potential distractors (the abuse, the alcoholism, the fencing, the leering older men, the politics of the time, the threats to siblings, the threats to livelihood, etc.) and having the few remaining obstacles be better developed and feel more grounded.
Comparisons to Other Authors:
I’ve never read anything by Erin Knightley before, and this was really hard to judge by — I will say that (too often these days) there seem to be these introductory type of novellas that are supposed to tempt you to read the rest of that series or family-related-saga. It’s possible that this is the intention here, and thus the novella is unsatisfying because it’s meant to be situated in a longer romance, but for me, it was poor advertisement and I have little incentive to continue.